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Government News
Legislation Aims to Hasten Transition To Electronic Health Information System
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 16 page 8-8

FIG1Two bills were introduced in Congress last month to expand the use of information technology in the health care system.

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Rep. Patrick Kennedy: "Structural flaws in our health care system cost tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars each year." 

The bill by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, parallels the federal health information technology strategy outlined by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson last month (see story above). It establishes federal leadership by creating an Office of Health Information Technology (HIT) within HHS headed by HIT coordinator David Brailer, M.D., Ph.D. It also promotes the development of data standards and implementation, funds incentives, and creates standardized measures of quality of care.

The bill that Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) introduced is the Josie King Act (HR 4880), named after an 18-month-old girl who died due to a medical error that was preventable, according to Kennedy's press release.

Kennedy announced the legislation in June as the Quality, Efficiency, Standards, and Technology (QUEST) for Healthcare Transformation Act (Psychiatric News, July 16). However, the bill was expanded before it was officially introduced as the Josie King Act in July.

The legislation calls for regional electronic networks to enable patients and health care professionals to exchange information in a private and secure manner, according to the release.

Kennedy's bill also calls for developing standardized measures of health care professionals' performance and annual public measures that could lead to a new "pay for performance" initiative.

The bill also includes these provisions:

"Our health care system failed Josie King, as it's failed so many people," said Kennedy. "As incredible as our medical care can be, structural flaws in our health care system cost tens of thousands of lives and hundred of billions of dollars each year. We can and must do better."

Twenty percent of tests and labs ordered are redundant and avoidable if the results of previous tests were available, the release states. Clinicians use evidence-based medicine only 55 percent of the time, and information technology spending in health care is less than one-third of similar spending in banking, according to the release.

S 2710 can be accessed online by searching on the bill number at<http://thomas.loc.gov>. Kennedy's bill, HR 4880, was not online by press time; his press release is posted at<www.house.gov/apps/list/press/ri01_kennedy/pr_040721.html>.

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Rep. Patrick Kennedy: "Structural flaws in our health care system cost tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars each year." 

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